Come In and Cover Me by Gin Phillips
Published by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin
Ever since discovering the work of a potter and artist, Ren has been a star of the archaeological community – although she hasn’t told anyone that it was the ghost of the artist who led her to her find. Professionally, she is a rising star, but personally she is damaged. The death of Ren’s brother Scott when she was twelve, and the ensuing distane the occurred between Ren and her parents, has permanently scarred her, making her unable to meaningfully engage in any relationship. Now Ren has been called in on a new dig with a man named Silas who believes he has discovered her artist in another location. Working with Silas will push Ren both personally and professionally, as she struggles with her feelings for him, and struggles to explain to him that her hunches on site are actually the result of ghosts showing her the way.
The first fifty pages of Come In and Cover Me work beautifully to draw the reader in. What is going on with Ren? Is she really seeing her dead brother’s ghost? Who is this artist whose work she has found, and how are the two of them connected?
From there, though, the book falters a bit. Phillips is a strong writer, but Ren is very difficult to connect with. Something isn’t quite right with her response to her brother’s death, namely her inability to make peace with it more than twenty years later. Her alleged ability to see ghosts also functions to distance her from the reader. Part of the issue is the question of whether or not she is actually seeing the spirits of the deceased, Silas obviously doesn’t think so, and it is never particularly clear to the reader. It does seem at times that the ghosts are a manifestation of her unconscious, but that returns to the question of how precisely she became so damaged that she pushes away relationships and sees things which aren’t really there.
Although Ren is a difficult character, Phillips has put together and interesting book – the archaeology is particularly fascinating – and I am interested in reading her first book, and whatever she may write in the future.
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